Monday, September 24, 2007

Writing Lessons From Dune

As I seem to do often, I've started reading two books at once. I found a nice looking hardback copy of Dune by Frank Herbert on the special rack at Borders. I sat there and read it for a while and then decided to buy it. I first read the book when I was a kid and I remembered thinking it was incredibly boring. I skipped through huge chunks of text trying to find the battle scenes. That's a lot like how I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Since Tolkien grew on me with age I figured I'd try Herbert again as well.

The book is very good and there are a few lessons to be drawn from it:

1. Herbert shifts POV to several different characters within the same scene. I think it works fairly well and it is leading me to lighten up on the strict point of view rules I've grown accustomed to.

2. The chapter headings have quotes from future history books written about the period about to be covered. Some would say this lessens the impact of the various plot twists but I think it's really cool. You know what's about to happen and you're anxious to find out how.

3. Herbert uses extensive direct thoughts in italics. You just don't see that very often anymore but I think it helps effectively unveil the character.

I'm sure there are other lessons as well but none I could find by page 65.


Kappa no He said...

Dune is another book I want to re-read. I actually loved it as a teen, I think I was just "ready" or so bored out of my skull I tuned in. But reading now is a totally different creature...when you can go in and see what makes it work and not work.

Scriptorius Rex said...

It is a much better book now than it was then.


I switch points of view, but I usually do so only after an obvious scene change (double space, asterisks, something visual on the page) or with the chapter break. I like the flexibility of getting inside different minds and seeing other characters/sensing the world in new ways.

As for chapters headings from "history" books, I think that's a cool concept, and have seen it elsewhere, usually in fantasy or science fiction, though snippets of actual history texts or literature have often been used as chapter headers in other genres.

Scriptorius Rex said...

I usually skip over lengthy quotes at the beginnings of chapters, especially if they look like poetry. So when I actually read them for Dune I was a bit surprised.